21.5-inch iMac supply dwindles amid chip shortages, possible refresh

Apple’s low-end, 21.5-inch iMac appears to be in short supply at Apple Stores and in Apple’s online storefront in the United States. The shortage could be a hint of an imminent change to the iMac lineup just a few days before Apple hosts a product launch event on April 20.

In particular, the cheapest, 1080p iMac (the rest of the 21.5-inch models have 4K displays) is seeing ship dates slipping back several days into late April or early May, which is usually a sign of low supply. This Mac in particular is also increasingly unavailable for pickup at physical Apple Stores around the US.

Meanwhile, the more expensive 27-inch iMac is shipping within a normal window, and it is showing as available at more retail stores.

This development comes a few weeks after Apple discontinued several certain configurations of the 21.5-inch iMac—specifically, those with 512GB of 1TB SSD storage options. You can currently buy 21.5-inch iMacs with 256GB of solid-state storage or a 1TB configuration that combines an SSD with an older hard drive.

Historically, changes like these have often been signs of imminent new product launches or discontinuations. But there is one wrinkle that makes that less of a sure thing this time: a worldwide chip shortage that may impact Apple’s products. The shortage has impacted many other tech and gadget companies already, and it may be the cause here, too.

M1 first, M1X later?

We’re speculating here, but the fact that only the lower-end models are seeing significant shortages while the 27-inch iMac is business as usual seems like a promising sign for an imminent product launch.

As we explained in our article on what to expect from Apple’s upcoming event, Apple is most likely to upgrade a low-end iMac before it addresses the faster, more expensive configurations.

An entry-level iMac would probably feature Apple’s M1 chip, the same seen in other low-end Macs late last year, while a higher-end model would need a new chip that Apple has not yet been introduced, such as an “M1X.”

This split could explain why some leaks and rumors have said an iMac update is coming next week, while others say it will be later in the year. But again, today’s news could be the result of chip shortages rather than a change in Apple’s product lineup.

We’ll find out one way or another when Apple holds its event on Tuesday next week.

Listing image by Samuel Axon